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Fomer Manchester mayor Frank Guinta vague on details about his consulting business

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 16. 2014 7:21PM

Frank Guinta, who is running again for the 1st District seat he won in 2010, only to lose in a reelection bid in 2012, talks with constituents during a town hall meeting. (UNION LEADER FILE)

BOB LaPREE/UNION LEADER THE MAYORS - outgoing mayor Frank Guinta, left, former mayors Bob Baines, Ray Wieczorek, new mayor Ted Gatsas, former mayors Emile Beaulieu and Sylvio Dupuis before the start of the inaugural ceremonies for Gatsas Tuesday. (1/5/10)

MANCHESTER - Since losing his seat in Congress two years ago, Frank Guinta has earned a living as a consultant, work that included providing strategy for political candidates and advice for an engineering company that deals with state and federal agencies.

Guinta, who is running again for the 1st District seat, speaks only in broad terms about his consulting. "Generally speaking," he said, his advisory role with CLD Consulting Engineers is "to help them grow their business."

Guinta said he used his background and experience to focus on business development. CLD Consulting Engineers, which was founded in 1976, also serves industrial and other private clients throughout northern New England on an array of construction, planning and technical projects.

Kenneth Rhodes, senior vice president and director of client services for CLD, said Guinta did not work on any specific project. The consulting involved Guinta's knowledge of issues, and to ensure CLD was answering questions as accurately as possible on the federal level, he said.

"He's helping us refine some business development approach," Rhodes said.

Rhodes declined to say what CLD had paid Guinta.

On the congressional financial disclosure statement Guinta filed in May, CLD Consulting Engineers and the New Hampshire Republican Party are reported, separately, under "compensation in excess of $5,000 paid by one source."

Helped with fundraising

The state GOP said Guinta helped the party raise money in the first few months of 2013.

Under "earned income" on the form, Guinta lists a $50,000 salary from 603 Advisors LLC, a company run by his former congressional chief of staff, Ethan Zorfas, who, like Guinta, is a principal in the venture.

603 Advisors has provided consulting for the Republican State Committee and some federal candidates, including Bill Cassidy for Senate in Louisiana and Gary Lambert, a Republican running in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District.

Guinta said he does not personally provide consulting for Lambert; but his consulting group does.

Last year, Guinta repaid himself $25,000 of a total $355,000 he had loaned his campaign in 2010, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Since the $355,000 in loans, FEC reports show Guinta has repaid himself a total of $65,425 as of June 30, 2014.

Amended his disclosures

Those candidate loans in 2010 caused a stir - and complaints to the FEC and House of Representatives - after Guinta amended his financial disclosures to reflect a bank account with between $250,000 and $500,000. Guinta said it was an oversight that the money wasn't previously disclosed.

Guinta said the House Ethics Committee exonorated him in December 2010, and that he was found in full compliance of the law.

The FEC complaints, he said, were politically motivated by Democrats and his opponents.

Guinta, a former Manchester mayor and alderman, won the 1st District seat in 2010 by defeating U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from Rochester. She came back to beat him in 2012. Guinta has a Republican primary Sept. 9 against Portsmouth businessman Dan Innis for the right to face Shea-Porter in November.

As to his finances, Guinta said he was being transparent. "As a private citizen, outside of my work with the Independent Business Council, I've provided business development and strategy for clients," Guinta said.

The House financial disclosure statement notes Guinta's other assets, including his spouse's salary as a vice president at New England College. Morgan Guinta previously worked for Catholic Medical Center in Manchester.

Their mortgages on two houses in Manchester: 172 Youville St., $100,001 to $250,000, and 221 Crestview Road, between $250,001 and $500,000, according to the financial disclosure.

There is plenty of precedent for former members of Congress to work as consultants. Former congressmen have experience, contacts and influence, said Dave Levinthal, senior reporter with the Center for Public Integrity. He investigates the influence of money in federal politics for the non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.

When representatives and senators leave office, it is not unusual for them to "cash in experience," Levinthal said. "The fact of the matter is, this is the way of Washington for Democrats and Republicans."

Opened business

In February 2013, three months after losing his rematch with Shea-Porter, Guinta launched his Independent Business Council of New Hampshire, a limited liability company. Its mission echoes one of his campaign themes as he runs again for Congress.

"The key issue for me is turning this economy around," said Guinta, who accuses Shea-Porter of neither listening nor responding to business needs. "I feel very strongly that families need to have the opportunities to have a better job."

The council is dedicated to "addressing the needs of independent business owners and operators." The mission, according to its website, includes providing "advocacy, education and better linkage with state leaders; which involves opinion leaders, agency regulators, as well as political representatives."

In an interview, Guinta called it a start-up business with one employee, the director, Anne Smith.

High profile

One of its most visible events over the past year was a "legislative exchange" in Concord in April, when state lawmakers discussed the "small business agenda."

Guinta said the council is working with an economist to produce an economic study, which he said would be released later this fall. The idea, he said, is for the study to contribute to public policy groundwork as lawmakers begin the next legislative session.

The council has an advisory board of about 30 business people, around two-thirds of whom have donated to Guinta's congressional campaign since 2010. He said the council has about 100 members.

Asked about membership dues or fees, Guinta responded, "I'm not sure I need to get into that. It's a private business."

Guinta said he does not draw a salary from serving as chairman of the council. "It's a labor of love," he said.

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